Fox Point resident Dave Braeger has come to understand that bullying—like many things—knows no boundaries, and he’s hoping to help change that dynamic.
Braeger, president of Private Equity Ventures, is giving a $3,000 grant to Bayside Middle School so next year's seventh-grade students can attend conflict resolution classes at the Peace Learning Center in Milwaukee.
The students will attend the program beginning next fall.
Rachel Boechler, superintendent of the Fox Point-Bayside School District, said they have always had an anti-bullying program, but when they can they have brought in other speakers or programs.
“We do believe it’s important, especially at the middle school level,” Boechler said. “Kids are hard on each other, not even having anything to do with bullying. But at their age they challenge one another. So we focus on how to be respectful of one another, and how to treat each other with kindness, and understand that everyone has their own issues and concerns.”
Braeger knew there was a need because when his children got off the bus from school, they would tell him stories about how other children were behaving in school and on the Internet.
“And (the stories) are equally as bad as the ones you hear about coming from the inner city,” he said. “A lot of these kids are losing their self respect because the people they are meeting don’t know how to resolve conflicts.”
Braeger, who is on the Peace Learning Center board, said he felt compelled to donate the money because of the school shootings that have been happening across the country over the years and the stories he heard from his children’s school.
And he doesn’t want this happening here. Peace Learning Center has typically focused on reducing violence in inner city schools. Braeger said suburban kids need conflict resolution skills too, so he brought this issue up in a board meeting.
Braeger’s $3,000 grant will cover quarterly trips to the Quaker Center in Milwaukee where staff from the Peace Learning Center will facilitate team-building and engage the students in conflict resolution activities.
Tara Serebin, executive director of Peace Learning Center, said the middle school program is a new endeavor for them.
“We’ll be talking with them a lot about first impressions,” Serebin said. “We’ll look at how they are formed, how they can be flexible and not always correct.”
The program also looks at how those first impressions influence relationships and how those first impressions influence how you handle conflict within those relationships.
“These are things that—until pointed out—kids aren’t always aware of so we name those and we give voice to the fact that withdrawing from a conflict isn’t a bad thing,” she said. “Many kids are afraid to withdraw from a conflict because they think it’s like losing. But sometimes it’s worth doing and doesn’t mean you are wimp.”
The program also gives opportunities to express their feelings about bullying by showing them how to use “I messages.”
Braeger said the Peace Learning Center program impressed him because it helps implement conflict resolution behaviors within the school setting.
“I’m a firm believer that we need to get children in these moldable moments and we need to instill these values before they are in the eighth grade,” Braeger said.